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N.Y., SEC file charges in fund probe

/ Source: The Associated Press

State and federal securities regulators filed criminal and civil charges Tuesday against a former employee of Bank of America over illegal mutual fund trading practices.

New York Attorney Eliot Spitzer announced felony larceny and securities fraud charges against former BofA broker Theodore Sihpol III. The Securities and Exchange Commission simultaneously announced civil charges against Sihpol.

Spitzer said the charges were the first of several expected in the mutual fund probe he announced this month.

“Our combined message is clear: Late trading is wrong, is clearly prohibited by the SEC” and wrongdoers would be punished, said Stephen Cutler, enforcement director for the SEC, said at a joint news conference.

Sihpol surrendered in New York to authorities Tuesday morning, Spitzer said. If convicted, Sihpol faces 8 to 24 years in prison.

Bank of America spokesman Robert Stickler said before the noon news conference that the bank had not been notified of any charges. He said he did not have a way to reach Sihpol, who was fired last week, along with several other employees, including the head of its mutual fund business, Nations Funds. Directory assistance had no listing for Sihpol in the New York area.

The case stems from Spitzer’s investigation of Canary Capital Partners, a multimillion dollar hedge fund that agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges that it had improper trading arrangements with several mutual fund companies, including Bank of America. Canary has admitted no wrongdoing and is cooperating with the investigation.